By Karen Carr Keefe
Senior Contributing Writer
In the second of two Town Board public hearings this week, residents gave their opinions Wednesday at the high school on the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for Grand Island Commerce Center. That’s the formal name for the mega-warehouse proposed by Acquest Development for 2780 Long Road.
A series of speakers pointed out any flaws they saw in the EIS and in the project approval process as a whole.
“We shouldn’t even have to be here right now,” said Cathy Rayhill.
Addressing Town Board members, she said, “Each one of you have already pointed out problems with the current reports, and yet, you voted to accept the draft as complete. This was a failure of your duty to us. You should have required additional studies or independent reviews of the problem areas before this hearing took place.”
On Aug. 28, the Town Board had accepted Acquest’s EIS for the project as adequate for review of potential negative environmental impacts. The review process takes place under the State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA).
Katherine Hastings expressed concern over the potential high volume of truck traffic and the impact of heavy traffic on town roads and infrastructure. She pointed to data in the EIS that indicated an additional 7,000 to 8,000 trucks per day could be expected on Grand Island if the warehouse is built.
Jim Carlson said he believes the EIS lacks hard facts to guide the town to the best decision on the warehouse project: “I get the distinct feeling that we have had no expert input on this whole project … from people who have gone through the process before and know all the answers that need to be answered.”
Dave Reilly said, “I really believe that the developer has failed to demonstrate the severity of impact across so many different aspects of this that we should be throwing it out tonight.”
Town counsel Dan Spitzer explained that accepting the EIS does not mean town approval of the warehouse, it means evaluation of the project’s site plan has begun.
After public comment and review, the town can accept, reject or ask for changes to the project site plan in a public session, he said. Written comments may be submitted to the town clerk until 4 p.m. Oct. 6.
In an interesting twist, the Grand Island Town Police Department, which monitors the sign-in for attendance at Town Board meetings, noted that eight individuals dressed in clown costumes signed in to Wednesday's meeting at Grand Island High School. An officer said that everybody was well-behaved. There was no official word on who would "Send in the Clowns."